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       Tile Option Over-View
                        An Explanation of Ceramic Tile Ratings

       Ceramic tile ratings are set up in a grading system of 1 to 5, based on the tile's toughness and durability. The 1 to 5 tile rating applies only to one aspect of tile: visible surface abrasion resistance, which is fancy talk for how readily scratches show on the tile's surface. A tile rating of 5 is the toughest in terms of standing up to scratching, dirt and traffic, 1 is the easiest to damage.


Grade 1
:
This is the weakest of all standard grade ceramic tiles. It's really only suitable as a wall tile.

Grade 2: This is best for light traffic areas. Again, a great product for wall tiles, but it will also work in residential bathrooms, where foot traffic is minimal.

Grade 3: Where ceramic tile ratings are concerned, grade three is most common in residential building, and perfect for light to moderate traffic. This makes it a very sensible choice for residential kitchens, countertops, residential flooring, and all areas that receive lighter wear and tear (i.e., grade 1 and 2 areas).

Grade 4: This grade is a step up from grade 3 tile grades. It's still a good choice for residential uses, such as tile floors and countertops, but it can also take the heavier abuse of light commercial foot traffic, such as you'd find in a doctor's office.

Grade 5: This stuff is as tough as it gets. When it comes to standard grade ceramic tiles, grade 5 is built to take a beating. It's mostly used in high traffic commercial areas such as shopping malls and airports.

       
    Most porcelain tiles on the market today will have a
PEI rating of 5, which certainly makes them the hardest wearing of any tile you could possibly choose. Although this rating system is an important tool, it is only one of many factors to consider when making the right flooring choice. Since it only addresses wear issues only, what about the factors determining porosity (water absorption) and slip resistant value.
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 Porosity (Water Absorption)

       Pay close attention to the ratings test that measures the percentage of water absorbed, or porosity. A tile's porosity is critical especially when choosing tile for kitchens and baths, since these areas need moisture proof flooring. See below for a quick breakdown

Ø      Nonvitreous:  This tile typically is used for decorative purposes only. It is intended for use indoors, in dry locations, such as a fireplace surround.

Ø      Semivitreous:  This type of tile is used indoors in dry to occasionally wet locations, such as a kitchen wall or behind a serving area in a dining room.

Ø      Vitreous:  This multipurpose tile is used indoors or outdoors in dry or wet locations. Anything from bathroom floors or walls to a patio surface.

Ø      Impervious:  Such tile generally is used only in hospitals, restaurants and other commercial locations where the ability to thoroughly clean is important.

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Slip Resistant Value (SRV)

Ø      0 – 25       Dangerous or high potential for slipping

Ø      25 – 35     Marginal or moderate potential for slipping

Ø      35 – 65     Safe or low potential for slipping

Ø      65 +          Very safe, extremely low potential for slipping

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                Natural Stone Tiles

   In addition to the many choices you have in ceramic tiles, there's also a wealth of options among natural stone tiles. There are many subtle and significant differences between the types of stones available, from appearance to water absorption to durability. The natural stones most commonly used in tiles are slate, marble, limestone, travertine and granite.


      
Slate
is a fine-grained, metamorphic rock, commonly derived from sedimentary rock shale. It's composed mostly of micas, chlorite, and quartz and is best suited for floors, walkways and roofing, and recently has been used attractively for kitchen countertops and wet bars.

       It's a dense, very tough composite that's typically available in blacks, grays and greens, although many other colors can also be found in slate products. Slate shades within the same color family often vary. Veined patterns from overseas have also recently been introduced. Unless it has been honed smooth, slate's surface can be recognized by its distinct cleft pattern.

       Marble is one of the more popular natural stones, formed from fossil sediment deposits that have been pressed by the natural geologic forces of nature for millions of years. Much as diamonds are created from coal, marble was once limestone that underwent a metamorphosis from the intense pressures and high temperatures within the earth.

       The combination of the natural materials in these deposits, along with natural geologic events, produces unique colors and veining with a richness of depth and intensity. Most marble products are generally softer than granites and have more porosity than granite. Since marble is a softer stone than granite, it's most often used in bathroom walls and flooring, as well as for tub decks, fireplace surrounds, furniture, sculptures and courtyards. Marble is not recommended for kitchens unless the stone is honed and sealed.

       Limestone is a form of marble that's less dense than marble or travertine (see below). Limestone is a sedimentary rock consisting mostly of calcium carbonate and is formed from the remains of ancient sea life, such as oysters, mussels, and other ancient shellfish and invertebrates, that have dropped to the sandy bottom of ancient seas and then compressed over millions of years.

       Limestone is a common stone found in many parts of the world in excellent abundance. Limestone generally varies in earthy colors such as off-white, grey or beige. If the limestone contains the mineral dolomite, it becomes harder in nature and can be polished to a shine much like marble can. Its best uses are for structural walls, entry walls, floors, fireplace surrounds, vanities and shower walls. It's generally not recommended for kitchen countertops and wet bars because fruit juices and alcohol products can stain it and limestone is prone to scratches.

       Travertine is a variety of limestone formed in pools by the precipitation of hot mineral-rich spring water. Travertine is another form of marble that's less dense than a high-grade marble and highly porous. The divots that are characteristic of travertine were created by carbon dioxide bubbles that became trapped as the stone was being formed.

       Travertine can have a honed, unfinished surface, or the holes can be filled and then polished to a high gloss. It's best used in entry walls, floors, fireplace surrounds, vanities, shower walls, tub decks and mosaics, but is not recommended for kitchen or wet bar countertops since it can be easily scratched. It can also be easily stained by fruit juices and alcoholic products. Its colors usually range from light beige to brown. Travertine does require a degree of special care, as some cleaning products can be destructive to its surface.

       Granite is a dense-grained hard stone. It's actually the second hardest known substance next to diamonds. Granite is an igneous rock formed either from the melting of sediments deep within the earth or through magma (lava) activity that has heated and cooled. These sediments were held under extreme pressure and temperatures for millions of years, then brought to the surface of the earth through upheaval of the crust that formed mountains. This process produces granite, a quartz-based product, which combines strength and durability with rich patterns and veining.

       Minerals within granite typically appear as small flecks throughout the stone, often creating a salt and pepper look. Other types of granite have veining similar to marble. Once polished, natural granite will maintain its high gloss finish virtually forever. It also cleans in seconds. Because of its durability, it can be used successfully on kitchen countertops, wet bars, entry walls, floors, fireplaces and bathroom vanities. Flamed or honed granite can be used almost anywhere.

       Buyers should note that no two natural stone tiles will be the same-each has its own natural beauty. Homeowners must be sure to seal the stone periodically, however, in order to maintain that beauty 

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                              Proper Grout Selection

Proper grout selection is one of the most important decisions to make. There are a number of grout manufacturers out there, each touting a superior product. What separates the good from the bad, the superior from the inferior? First of all, in order for a grout to even be considered 'superior', it must satisfy a few minimum requirements. The features listed below are by no means the only ones to look for, just the minimum needed in order to be called 'superior' quality.
  • Acid Resistance
  • Polymer Fortified
  • Chemically Enhanced Curing Process
  • Stain Warranty

Acid resistance means you will be able to clean your floor without the fear of chemically harming the grout. Without this feature, some cleaners could 'etch' the grout, causing it to be eaten away at the edges over time. This is especially true with household 'acid' cleaners.

Polymers added by the manufacturer will assist greatly in the grout being naturally stain resistant. This particular feature will help prevent the time-consuming task of having to use an after-market sealer on the grout after installation.

A chemically enhanced curing process means the color of the grout will be uniform throughout the entire area. No unsightly blotches or discoloration due to climate conditions or various moisture levels in the sub-floor.

The stain warranty This is simply the manufacturer putting their money where their mouth is. Most reputable grout manufacturers will offer a 10-15 year stain warranty.

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Proper Grout Color Selection

       Grout color, believe it or not, is perhaps the most significant contributor to the overall look of the tiled floor or wall. You can spend months searching for just the perfect tile choice, only to end up disappointed because of a poor grout color decision. First, keep in mind that it is the tile itself (the largest expense of the project) that should be making the design statement, not the grout. Any grout color choice should only compliment the ceramic tile, not dominate it. If a light color tile was chosen, then a corresponding light color grout should be used. A medium colored tile, a medium colored grout and so forth. The last thing you want is to have your tile look like it was set in asphalt and this is precisely what happens when dark grouts are used with light colored tiles. __________________________________________________________________
  
                       Cleaning Grout

       Here is a misnomer, 'dark colored grouts are easy to keep clean'. This couldn't be further from the truth.  In reality, dark grouts are almost impossible to keep clean. One reason for this is that most soil and dirt is light colored and will show up readily (actually be highlighted) on a darker grout. The other reason is most liquid spills will dry leaving an alkali residue (white film) which is very difficult to clean. Light to medium colored grouts, on the other hand, will be considerably easier to keep clean and looking like new. Simply damp mop as needed with a solution of warm water and a small amount of liquid bleach (yes bleach!). The small amount of bleach will get rid of any imbedded soiling such as dried liquids spills and will result in a new looking floor. (Be careful around carpeting and linoleum!)

       For stubborn 'stains', squeeze some Soft-Scrub (brand name of liquid bleach cleaner) directly onto the joint and gently work to a lather with a nylon bristle brush. Let set for a few minutes, and then rinse with a warm water and bleach solution (1/4 cup bleach to 1 Gal water). Stay off floor until dry (grout takes longer to dry than the actual floor), and you will be amazed at the results. Please note that this cleaning method is to be used on LIGHT COLORED GROUT ONLY! 
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Sealing Grout/ Tile
Always follow manufacturer’s instructions on the specific sealer being used. 

                                               STONE

The first step in stone tile maintenance is the sealing of the stone. Generally, all stone must be sealed. Follow the Manufacturers recommendations for the product you choose. Know what the surface preparation (polished, honed, or natural) coupled with the density and porosity of the stone will determine the best type (petroleum or water based) of sealer to be used. The other consideration is that you use the best product the budget will allow.
                                                  
                                                        
CERAMIC

The first step in maintenance is the sealing of the grout. Generally, glazed tile requires no sealer. Some unglazed tile requires no sealer. Know the type of tile you are buying to be installed. Test it with a small amount of water. If the surface darkens, it absorbs water and needs to be sealed. Generally, cementations grouts require sealing while specialty grouts like epoxy and furans do not. If the grout darkens with water, it needs a sealer. Glazed tiles should never be sealed. The glaze is the "sealer" and is far more permanent and resistant to wear than any sealer. Some Manufacturers have sealers that incorporate a sacrificial coating together with a penetrating sealer. This can be the best of both worlds.

On indoor installations of hard, dense tiles or stones, many people select a penetrating sealer only. The use of sealers on tile is an area that books could be written about, with all the options available and their relations to each other.  I speak only in very general terms and keep in mind; there are exceptions to every rule. Manufacturer’s instructions must be followed closely after a sealer is selected. Please do not mix brands. Once you have started with one brand, do not apply another on top of the first, hoping for the proper results.

 

 

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